Killers of ex-Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi released after court order | News

The convicts were released citing ‘satisfactory conduct’ in prison and the 30 years they spent in prison.

The last accomplices who were jailed for the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 have been released from prison, a day after the order of the country’s Supreme Court.

Gandhi, 46, was killed by a woman who committed suicide at an election rally in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu in a plot by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a Sri Lankan militant group.

India’s highest court allowed the release of the six prisoners, citing their “satisfactory conduct” in prison and the fact that they had already spent more than 30 years in prison.

Three of the six – Nalini Sriharan, her husband Murugan, and Santhan – were released from two jails in Vellore on Saturday, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) from the regional capital Chennai, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

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“It’s a new life with my husband and my daughter. Thank you Tamils ​​for supporting me for more than 30 years. I thank the state and central governments,” Sriharan told NDTV channel after his release.

Local media said others – Robert Pais, Jaikumar, and Ravichandran – were released from jails in Chennai and Madurai in similar circumstances.

Three of the six convicts released on Saturday were on death row before their sentences were commuted.

Gandhi became India’s youngest prime minister after his mother and predecessor Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards in 1984.

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radjiv gandhi - pic file
Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi delivers a speech on May 16, 1991 [File: AFP]

The Gandhi dynasty has been at the helm of the Congress Party, which has dominated Indian politics for decades, and Rajiv’s widow Sonia remains the party’s most powerful figure, while their son Rahul, 52, is seen as the main challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Last month, the party elected 80-year-old former minister Mallikarjun Kharge as its first non-Gandhi president in 24 years, in a bid to reverse an electoral slump.

Rajiv’s assassination was seen as a response to his decision to send Indian troops to Sri Lanka in 1987 to disarm Tamil rebels. India lost more than 1,000 men against the insurgents who had settled before withdrawing its forces.

The Congress party condemned the court’s decision as “totally unacceptable” and “absolutely wrong”.

“It is very unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not acted in accordance with the spirit of India in this matter,” said the group, in a statement by senior member Jairam Ramesh.

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India has a significant Tamil population, and the governments of Tamil Nadu have repeatedly called for the release of the convicts.

Earlier this year, the court acquitted AG Perarivalan, another convict involved in earlier murders, and state chief minister MK Stalin, a key Congress ally, hugged him after his release.

Gandhi’s son years ago spoke about how he and his sister Priyanka forgave his father’s killers.

“We were very upset and sad and for many years we were angry,” the Indian Express newspaper quoted Rahul as saying in 2018. But they forgave them, he said, “in fact, completely”.


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